Pressure Rises on US Companies to Share Covid Vaccine Technology

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Global health advocates say Moderna has a special obligation to share its technology because its vaccine is based in part on technology developed by the National Institutes of Health, and because the company has accepted $ 2.5 billion from the government. federal government as part of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s fast-track vaccination initiative.

Moderna spokeswoman Colleen Hussey said in an email Tuesday evening that the company had agreed not to enforce its Covid-related patents and was “willing to license our intellectual property for Covid vaccines- 19 to others for the post-pandemic period “.

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But advocates say the world needs Moderna’s know-how now – not after the pandemic ends.

Although sharing the vaccine “recipe” is a vital first step, it is not in itself sufficient to enable the rapid and efficient establishment of new mRNA manufacturing sites, said Alain alSalhani, an expert. in vaccines with access from Médecins sans frontières. drug campaign.

“You need someone to share the whole process because this is new technology,” he said. “One of the problems we have is that the scientific literature on manufacturing mRNA vaccines on an industrial scale is so thin. This is why it is not just a recipe, it is an active and complete transfer of technology.

Pfizer, in an emailed statement, noted that it and its partner BioNTech had signed a letter of intent, announced last month, with South African biopharmaceutical company Biovac, which is part of the South African hub, to manufacture Pfizer’s vaccine for African nations. But Biovac will only bottle the vaccine, which doesn’t require sharing the formula. The real “drug substance” will be manufactured in Europe.

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In the absence of voluntary cooperation from companies, some legal experts and global health advocates say the Biden administration could attempt to force them to share their intellectual property, using the powers of the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law which gives the president wide powers. on US businesses in emergencies.

Lawrence O. Gostin, a public health law expert at Georgetown University, said Mr Biden could declare the pandemic a national security threat, which would allow him “to require companies to sign technology transfer contracts in exchange for reasonable compensation ”, either from the federal government or manufacturing partners.